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10 Films To See In January

10 Films To See In January

January is perceived to be a flat-out, no-good month to release a movie. Usually considered the dumping ground for films which would be killed opening up any other time—no disrespect—but if your movie’s being released this month, it will be approached with a greater sense of wariness. However, it’s not all bad, as the post Christmas/New Year’s malaise not only sees Oscar and awards season contenders expand from limited to wide release, savvy distributors find pockets to release adult, intelligent fare into a marketplace that desperately needs it. So in case you thought January was a lost cause, here are ten movies to see this month, including two that opened in limited release in December but are getting a second tribute in honor of their wide releases.

Synopsis: A writer (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with a computer operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) that, in turn, becomes more aware of the world.
What You Need to Know: “Her” appeared on last month’s 12 Movies to See in December, but if you didn’t live in New York or L.A., you weren’t able to see it. Spike Jonze is a director known for his wildly inventive films and after his 2009 adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are,” the director took a break to focus on shorts and documentaries. By 2012, he returned to the feature format and filmed “Her,” a romance about a Siri-like computer program’s relationship with a mild-mannered writer. Cut to this season’s award calendar where “Her” is taking the world by storm. Our own Rodrigo Perez gave the movie an “A-” for its “disarmingly funny” examination of love and loneliness when it closed the New York Film Festival. There have even been questions of whether Johansson would see a Best Actress nomination for her vocal work, although the Golden Globes have deemed her ineligible. “Her” is sure to hit a sweet spot for Jonze aficionados, as well as the art-house crowd with the buzz possibly infecting mainstream audiences too.
Release Date: January 10th

Lone Survivor
Synopsis: Based on a true story, “Lone Survivor” follows four Navy SEALs on a covert mission, finding themselves isolated and outnumbered in the mountains of Afghanistan.
What You Need to Know: Another wide release in January, “Lone Survivor” continues to be touted as a serious awards contender. The movie is directed by Peter Berg (“Battleship”) and starring Mark Wahlberg, and despite Charlie Schmidlin’s tepid response to it at AFI Fest—he gave it a “B,“ dinging Berg for never taking the story beyond “bravery and sacrifice”—it’s the outlier with mountains of praise being heaped on it from other outlets. If the word of mouth stays strong fans will take a chance on it.
Release Date: January 10th

The Rocket
Synopsis: A young boy, believed to bring bad luck, takes his family and friends on a journey to find a new home.
What You Need to Know: Australian director Kim Mordaunt’s latest film is slowly earning an outspoken slew of followers, despite the film failing to make the Foreign Language shortlist for this year’s Academy Awards. Our own Rodrigo Perez loved the film when it showed at Tribeca, giving it an “A-.” In his review he mentions the movie’s ability to be “endearing, gripping, and heartwarming,” calling it a crowd pleaser. Mordaunt is generally regarded for his documentary films, but based on the reception to “The Rocket,” narrative filmmaking should be the director’s new territory.
Release Date: January 10th in New York; January 17th in Los Angeles

Big Bad Wolves
Synopsis: A series of brutal murders force three men to come into contact with each other: the victim’s father seeking revenge, a vigilante police detective, and the main suspect.
What You Need to Know: This gritty crime thriller didn’t make the Oscar shortlist for Foreign Language either, but similar to “The Rocket, “ it’s garnering exorbitant amounts of praise. At Tribeca, Drew Taylor gave “Big Bad Wolves” an “A” grade, calling it a “deeply brilliant” tale of revenge. The hype is so pervasive director Quentin Tarantino called the movie the best film of the year at the Busan International Film Festival in October. Magnet Releasing has U.S. distribution and with a limited release run, it’s hoped the lack of competition this month will get a wider swath of audiences out to see it.
Release Date: January 17th in limited release

Synopsis: Gloria (Paulina Garcia) isn’t a young girl anymore but still feels youthful in her heart. She spends her evenings in dance clubs for single adults where she meets Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a man who changes her outlook on life.
What You Need to Know: It sounds repetitive, but January really is the month for foreign films. With a smaller, and less than exemplary, lineup of major Hollywood releases, foreign cinema thrives in expanded release. “Gloria,” like “The Rocket,” failed to make the foreign language shortlist for the Oscars, a snub many are still questioning. It’s a shame, considering Jessica Kiang gave the film an “A-” during its showing at the Berlin Film Festival. This entry from Chile is superb, with Kiang’s review heaping accolades on everything from the acting, to the directing, and screenplay. With such a lackluster slew of blockbusters, one should definitely make time to check out “Gloria.”
Release Date: January 17th in limited release

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Synopsis: Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is a CIA operative tasked with uncovering and subduing a financial terrorist plot.
What You Need to Know: Tom Clancy’s most popular character, CIA agent Jack Ryan, has seen four major big-screen adaptations with three separate actors playing Ryan, pre-Chris Pine. The early ’90s saw Alec Baldwin originate the role in “The Hunt for Red October,” eventually segueing into Harrison Ford being the first, and only actor, to play Ryan twice (in 1992’s “Patriot Games” and 1994’s “Clear and Present Danger”). The Ryan character took a break for almost a decade until 2004 when Ben Affleck, in the midst of a downward spiral of subpar characters, played Ryan in “The Sum of All Fears.” After that, the series was in flux with many wondering if Affleck would continue in the role, or if someone new would start the series fresh. In 2009 the script for “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” started floating around under the title “Dubai.” The original plot remains, despite several screenwriters cannibalizing and changing the material into what its finished form is now. The movie was originally meant for a Christmas Day release, but after “The Wolf of Wall Street” raced to make a 2013 debut, Paramount shoved aside ‘Jack Ryan’ to give the release date to Scorsese’s latest. Regardless, the trailer hearkens back to an earlier mentality in action films, and Ryan is a character who deserves a continued franchise.
Release Date: January 17th

Like Father, Like Son
Synopsis: The story of a family coping with the knowledge that the son they’ve raised since birth is not their son and was accidentally switched at birth.
What You Need to Know: January is the month of the anti-Oscar with this being, yes, another film failing to make the Foreign Language shortlist. It isn’t a slight against the film’s quality because our own Kevin Jagernauth fell in love with this “charming study” of parenthood. He gave the film an “A” during its Cannes run, and the film’s touching exploration of parenthood and the relationship between parents and their children continues to warm audiences’ hearts. DreamWorks apparently sees additional potential as they’ve announced plans for an American remake of the picture. Nothing’s known on director or screenwriter, but fingers crossed it doesn’t end up being another “Oldboy”-esque disappointment. The original film is partnered up with Sundance Selects, who is giving this a limited release mid-month with the hopes of further expansion throughout the year.
Release Date: January 17th in limited release

Ride Along
Synopsis: Before Ben (Kevin Hart) can marry the woman of his dreams, he must go on a “ride along” with her overprotective detective brother, James (Ice Cube) to prove his worthiness.
What You Need to Know: No one’s expecting “Ride Along” to garner awards or end up on 2014’s Best of the Year list, but for such a dismal month, a little levity is needed. Kevin Hart will inundate theaters this month and next with his movies, and “Ride Along” appears to be one of the better options out there. The trailers have certainly hyped up the camaraderie between Hart and Cube and Universal must have seen something because they started working on a sequel back in April. That’s April of 2013! Whether this ends up being a comedic surprise or a total disaster, expect the movie to get a fair amount of audience members, and a sequel if the numbers add up in its favor.
Release Date: January 17th

Labor Day
Synopsis: A convict (Josh Brolin) kidnaps a mother (Kate Winslet) and her young son over the Labor Day weekend. As the trio are holed up, a relationship develops between the felon and young mother which could change everything.
What You Need to Know: Joyce Maynard’s novel has a difficult premise to overcome, especially considering the audience has to buy the relationship between a murderer and a young mother without it coming off as Stockholm syndrome. Thankfully, the leads are Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, so audiences shouldn’t have such a difficult time. The movie won’t see wide release till the month’s end, but its limited run has resulted in a Golden Globe nomination for Winslet, and some critics are calling it director Jason Reitman’s most accomplished effort. Unfortunately, much like the premise, the movie is divisive. Chris Willman saw it during the Telluride Film Festival in August and failed to witness the same sentiment as others, giving it a “C” for its soapy melodramatic premise hewing “far closer to Nicholas Sparks’ brand of contrivance.” With romances slowly ramping up in time for Valentine’s Day, women will definitely be checking this out, with the added benefit of Oscar potential.
Release Date: January 31st

Tim’s Vermeer
Synopsis: A documentary exploring how 17th-century Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer was able to create paintings with near photographic authenticity before the invention of the camera.
What You Need to Know: Here’s one which has made the Oscar shortlist for the documentary category, placing it against heavy-hitters like “The Act of Killing” and “Stories We Tell.” It might be hard to figure where the fun is in the story of a documentarian theorizing how a 17th-century painter created his most iconic works, but critics have fallen in love with “Tim’s Vermeer.” The film has gone on to garner several smaller awards on its road to the Oscars, most recently being one of the runners-ups for the BMO Allan King Documentary Award from the Toronto Critics Association. Documentaries get the smallest release windows so if it’s headed to your town, definitely make a point of seeing it!
Release Date: January 31st in limited release

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